NFC North Tour: Running Backs

In an accompanying piece to our look at the Packers' backfield, here's the scoop on Green Bay's NFC North rivals.

Chicago Bears

Starter: Matt Forte. Backups: Chester Taylor, Garrett Wolfe, Kahlil Bell

In the second half of the season, Forte was outstanding, averaging over 5.0 yards per carry to finish with a career-best 4.5-yard average for the season. He also tied for the team lead with 51 receptions and averaged 10.7 yards per catch. Taylor's contributions were marginal, and he was ineffective for most of the season, averaging just 2.4 yards per carry. Wolfe does not have a role in the offense but contributes on special teams. Bell has no special qualities but decent run skills, and should get a chance to replace Taylor next training camp.

Detroit Lions

Starters: Jahvid Best, Jerome Felton. Backups: Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown.

Turf toe injuries slowed Best for the better part of the final 13 weeks, but the Lions saw what they needed to see. He is the big-play back they've coveted. He finished fourth among rookies with 555 rushing yards and added 58 receptions, including a 75-yard touchdown. The rest of the group is a work in progress. Felton is a versatile back, but he doesn't run with much power. The Lions will be seeking more of a power runner, which means either the injury-prone Smith or the aging Morris — possibly both — won't be back.

Minnesota Vikings

Starter: Adrian Peterson, FB Naufahu Tahi. Backups: Toby Gerhart, Lorenzo Booker, Albert Young.

Peterson is one of the NFL's elite running backs, having rushed for 1,298 yards on 283 carries with 12 touchdowns. He also was third on the Vikings with 36 receptions for 341 yards and a touchdown. However, the most impressive thing might be that Peterson was charged with only one fumble this season. That came after Peterson had 20 fumbles, including 13 lost, from 2007 through 2009. Peterson's contract will void after 2011 and he's going to want a new deal with a boatload of guaranteed money before next season starts. Gerhart made progress as his rookie season went along and proved that he is someone who can get yards and move the chains. He isn't nearly as fun to watch as Peterson but Gerhart can be effective. Gerhart finished second on the Vikings with 322 yards on 81 carries and a touchdown. Booker was signed late in the season and gave the Vikings a boost on kickoff returns. He could battle for a job as a third-down back. Young finished on injured reserve because of a knee injury. Tahi has been the fullback in the Vikings' West Coast offense but there is no guarantee the team will run that offense in 2011.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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